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September 17, 2012

East Texas resident lobbies for more funding for cancer research

JACKSONVILLE —  A Cherokee County resident went to Washington D.C. for thee days to speak with legislators about the need for federal dollars to fund cancer research and prevention programs.

The visit was part of the annual American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Leadership Summit and Lobby Day, which brings more than 600 cancer survivors and volunteers from all 50 states and  every Congressional district to Washington to call on Congress to take steps to make cancer a national priority.

Cynthia Kline, of Rusk, serves and the county chairwoman for Relay For Life, an organization that aims to fund research and quality of life programs for cancer victims and survivors. She traveled with about 65 Texans to the nation's capital to personally meet with all 32 congressional officials from the Lone Star State. She said the group either met with the officials themselves or their top staff members.

Kline said the group specifically asked its elected officials to protect funding for cancer research, protect funding for cancer prevention and screening programs and co-sponsor legislation to improve the quality of life for cancer patients by providing patients with better access to palliative care services and coordinated care.

Advocates met with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison , Sen. John Cornyn , U.S. Representative Jeb Hensarling, U.S. Representative Louie Gomert, U.S. Representative Joe Barton and other members of the Texas federal delegation.

"I believe I am more effective as a representative when I hear from my constituents about how the issues before Congress impact them,” Hensarling said in a statement. “So it is always a treat when constituents from the 5th District come to Washington, D.C. to advocate for a cause that is near and dear to their heart. Cindy's passion for cancer research was evident during our meeting, and I appreciate her taking the time to share her perspective with me."

While in Washington, D.C., cancer advocates also attended trainings on communicating with elected officials, speaking with the media and engaging in grassroots activities in their communities. The three-day Lobby Day culminated Friday night with a Lights of Hope ceremony in front of the U.S. Capitol steps, with more than 3,000 lights spelling "HOPE." Each light represented cancer survivors and loved ones who have died from the disease.

Kline said this is her sixth year to lobby in Washington for the cause.

“I have seen that our legislators in reality have been steadfast in their support in the fight against cancer,” she said. “They have maintained funding for research, protection and prevention.”

She said Gomert shared a personal story of how cancer affected his life and staff members in Cornyn's office shared some of their trials with the disease.

“It is a good reminder that these aren't a bunch of bobble heads in Washington,” Kline said. “They have emotion and do care about cancer, but our (message) is not to just care, but to take action.”

She said she understands officials must be selective of the programs they choose to fund.

“The balance between those things and the responsibilities in Washington of not spiraling our nation into insatiability like Greece and other nations — that's a huge responsibility,” she said. “I respect the job that they do.”

She said the fight against cancer is a battle worthy of funding.

“Nearly 1,500 people die every day in this country from cancer,” she said. “We must continue to look forward to new successes in fighting the disease. Even in this tough economic climate, Congress should commit to protecting funds that make tests and treatments more effective, as well as support legislation that provides individuals with serious illnesses like cancer better coordinated care.”

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